NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 54 January 28, 1999
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


More on E-Philanthropy
Low-Tech Letter Writing
Looking At Logs
About NetAction Notes

Editor's Note:

This issue of NetAction Notes was written by Michael Stein. Got a question about nonprofits online? Ask Michael: Send your questions to Michael Stein at . Questions of general interest will be answered in a future issue of NetAction Notes.

More on E-Philanthropy

By Michael Stein

Thanks to all of you who emailed me after the last issue with comments and questions. You raised many issues about e-philanthropy and had specific questions about some of the services out there today. One of the best resources to stay on top of developments with specific services is the Online Fundraising Mailing List offered by Michael Gilbert of The Gilbert Center in Seattle. To subscribe to the Online Fundraising Mailing list, send email to (from the address at which you wish to be subscribed) with the words "subscribe fundraising" (without quotes) in the body of the message. To learn more about The Gilbert Center visit

Putnam Barber with the The Internet Nonprofit Center in Seattle wrote in to suggest a fourth category of online fundraising Web sites which he titled "Miscellaneous," services. Examples include and In Putnam's words, they "offer to move routine nonprofit data processing tasks on to the Web [and] are really onto something. Maybe someday there will be a way of organizing all that too -- or a single Web site that integrates many of those services -- but for now they [...] deserve a little sunlight."

Both of these sites (and there are more out there) offer membership management, event organizing, online credit card transactions, Web hosting, and more. They're part of the growing trend aimed at the nonprofit online marketplace that offers Internet based "applications" that organizations can use to handle routine transactions and tasks. (Nonprofits aren't the only ones who appreciate their value; was recently acquired by, Inc., a premier music service provider.)

There is very little technical expertise required for an organization to use one of these services, and credit is due to their designers for making it so. They each offer a core of services that are free, and then add-on services that cost more.

In the case of, their free online event planning service is a marvel, easy to setup, and very efficient. The challenge is getting your members or supporters to feel comfortable using the service. Many people get email invitations these days, but few actually use the Internet to RSVP. But the potential is clearly there and with nonprofits always looking for ways to cut costs, online event planning services have a future. goes a little further in that it offers to digitize and automate the entire membership management process. While I applaud the goal of trying to make this process easier for nonprofits, the challenge is how to integrate the data processing on the Web site with any internal tracking systems already in place at the nonprofit. Given the varied software programs in use by nonprofits and the varied staff expertise in managing donor information, nonprofits should consider the implications of outsourcing this process to a Web-based vendor. This is clearly the future of donor management; now all that are needed are some nonprofits to step up to the plate, try these services out, and then report back on successes and challenges.

Following up from last issue, I want to recognize (a service of Working Assets) as one of the "charity portals" described in the last issue. One of the unique benefits of using a service like is that they make it easy to support a progressive organization working for social change. Most "charity portals" don't specialize, they just offer a huge list of nonprofits.

Low-Tech Letter Writing

My next item recognizes a Web site that deserves special mention for good content in a low-tech presentation. I've selected the California League of Conservation Voters at for its clear presentation of how to write a letter to the editor of your newspaper. In their example, it's in support of Proposition 12, a California ballot initiative on the March ballot that provides funding for parks, open space and urban recreation. There are a lot of ways to set up letter writing tools on the Web, and many are quite expensive to develop, but CLCV has created an easy-to-use, well organized and low-tech version that includes tips on how to write a letter, addresses of California newspapers and sample letters. If you're planning a letter writing campaign and have a Web site, here's a Web site that you can use as a model! Hats off to Teresa Schilling (CLCV's Communications Director) and the CLCV staff for offering us this gem.

Looking At Logs

Finally, let me discuss how to use Web referrer logs when designing an online marketing campaign. Log files are collected by the Internet company that hosts your Web site and records information such as which page on your Web site has just been viewed, and at what time. It records this information continuously in a very long stream of data, with every hit to your Web site meticulously recorded. The two main types of log files that exist are ACCESS LOGS and REFERRER LOGS. Access logs are a record of which page on your Web site has just been viewed, and at what time. With this data you can learn which are the most popular pages on your site, which are least popular, where do people enter your site, where do they leave, what time of the day or week do people visit, and much more. Referrer logs record where people have come from before reaching your site, in other words their originating location. Imagine an airport where you know how many planes are landing and how often. Now imagine you knew what cities all those planes originated from...that's like referrer logs.

Referrer logs are extremely valuable tools to understand where your online traffic is coming from. The logs will show which search engines are sending you traffic, and what keywords they used to locate your listing. The logs will show the identity of Web portals that have listed you and how much traffic they send your way. The logs will identify any other site that sends you traffic, and the precise location of a page where a link to your site is located.

I encourage organizations to use the information about portals and other Web sites to target future marketing and promotion efforts. If you're in the children's advocacy field and you can see in your referrer logs one month that sent you 80 visitors, then you need to be sure to send those folks your future news releases, or better yet pick up the phone and get to know them better. If you're in the substance abuse prevention field and you see in your referrer logs, you need to note them too. Little by little, you can build an online promotion check list that includes all these Web sites. Review your referrer logs each month and particularly after any news events you've been involved in and identify new sites that have sent you traffic.

You can use referrer logs to evaluate partnerships with other organizations that have pledged to drive traffic to your site. You can also use referrer logs to evaluate whether your Web advertizing banners are delivering traffic to your site.

In the spirit of open disclosure and as a way to encourage other nonprofits to use and analyze access logs and referrer logs, I invite you to view the most recent month of collected data at Children Now, a national children's advocacy organization based in Oakland, California. [Note: they are a former employer of mine and currently a consulting client.]

The logs are at and are presented here using WebTrends software. WebTrends is just one of several available software programs to help you analyze your hit logs and referrer logs.

In the Children Now WebTrends logs, use the left navigational toolbar to find the referrer logs. You'll see a lot of search engines in here, and also portals and other sites that sent traffic such as,,,,,,,,, and more. These Web sites are key partners in Children Now's efforts to do online promotion for its work on behalf of children.

Editor's Note: Log files are also discussed in The Virtual Activist, NetAction's online training course. See for an example of logs.

If you don't currently obtain access or referrer logs for your Web site, contact your Internet provider that is hosting your site and ask them to help you. If they don't offer logs or aren't helpful, I'd recommend you consider finding another Internet provider that understands your needs. Some Internet providers can provide you with the software to analyze the data, others will only offer the raw log files, and then it's up to you to purchase the software and do the analysis on your own. Good luck!


I got several questions about where people can take workshops for Internet activists and online fundraising in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'll be teaching two workshops this coming Spring at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (formerly the Support Center for Nonprofit Management) at their San Francisco office. Visit to learn more about them, their costs and to register.


February 16, 2000 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This workshop covers the key elements of an effective internet presence, including: developing an engaging online content model; using Web technologies such as Web forums, online databases, audio, and video; working with Web portals; analyzing statistics for your Web site; getting listed with search engines and Web directories; doing online publicity; in-house marketing; using email for outreach; online fundraising.


March 29, 2000 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This workshop covers options for raising money online including charity portals, credit card vendor companies, online shopping malls, online auction houses, corporate advertising, sponsorships and more.

Editor's Note: At The Management Center's Best Practices Conference on February 25, 2000, at the Radisson Miyako Hotel in San Francisco, NetAction's webmaster, Judi Clark, is teaching a workshop on Internet activism from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and NetAction's executive director, Audrie Krause, is teaching a workshop about online public relations from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Visit for information on cost and registration.

Many large cities across the country have nonprofit management support organizations that offer or sponsor Internet classes for nonprofits. One of my favorite online resources that readers can use to locate similar classes in their communities is located on at

Michael Stein is an Internet strategist with a decade of experience working with advocacy groups, non profits and labor unions. He is the author of two books about the Internet including "Fundraising on the Internet: Recruiting and Renewing Donors Online," with Mal Warwick and Nick Allen (Strathmoor Press, 1997). He is currently the Manager of Internet Presence at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (formerly the Support Center for Nonprofit Management) in San Francisco, and a consultant with Resourceful Internet Solutions, an Internet consulting firm serving mediators, nonprofits and unions. Recent Internet projects have included the California Labor Federation, Children Now, Environmental Defense Fund, SEIU California State Council, Landmark Education, Independent Media Institute, Women's Economic Agenda Project and Peninsula Open Space Trust. He is a frequent advisor and workshop leader on Internet strategy to nonprofits nationwide, and has been featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Industry Standard. He can be reached online at .

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